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Derek Twigg, MP for Halton

Working Hard for Widnes, Runcorn & Hale

Derek condemns school building cull in Parliamentary Debate

27 Jul 2010

Derek launched a scathing attack on the Coalition Government's abolition of the Building Schools for the Future Programme during a 90 minute debate he secured on the issue in Parliament's Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 21st July.

With all of Halton's secondary schools being affected, Halton has been hit the hardest of all areas of the country by the swingeing axe Education Secretary Michael Gove has taken to its schools' buildings plans.  Derek said over 7,000 pupils in Halton will be denied the state of the art new buildings and facilities they were promised by the previous Labour Government.

Derek said:

"It is disgraceful that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Government have taken a devastating axe to the vital funding for schools in Halton, which is one of four Labour-held constituencies  among the six seats in England and Wales where school culls that go into double figures have been inflicted.

We all remember how the previous Conservative Government left many school buildings dilapidated and crumbling, and the Labour Government had to pick up the pieces and initiate the biggest school building programme in over a century."

Indeed, £24 million had already been spent on our schools in Halton over the last ten years.

Derek decried as 'laughable' the Coalition's claims to be implementing fairness across the piece, challenging the Junior Education Minister Tim Loughton speaking for the Government in the Debate to explain how "targeting the second smallest unitary authority in England, which serves the country's thirtieth most deprived area, with the worst cuts to the BSF programme in the North West will bring any benefit to the disadvantaged?"

Derek further argued that schools could no longer expand to improve their health education facilities and community outreach activities aimed at further improving parent literacy and numeracy and with it their access to better health services.

He pointed out that this would have saved resources spent on more expensive public body interventions further down the line, and that jobs especially in the construction industry would now be lost at a crucial time for the recovery of the local economy.

Derek also asserted that the culling of Building Schools for the Future would prove to be counter-productive in terms of prioritising the further raising of pupil attainment and the quality of teaching.

Praising the dedication of staff, students and govenors which have seen Halton's top GCSE attainment levels rise from a third to almost three quarters of pupils in over a dozen years of Labour Government, Derek produced research evidence from Britain and the United States indicating that the built school environment including the quality of facilities in classrooms has an impact on pupil attainment.

Derek said:

"The BSF cuts mean that Halton goes from being an authority with sufficient school places overall to one with insufficient capacity.  They mean that an increasing number of children will have their lessons in mobile classrooms when they should have been in brand new schools. With Labour, it was building for the future; with the Con-Lib Coalition, it is more like 'Back to the Future' of the 1980s, with rampant ideological cuts and failing facilities in schools."

Derek also rubbished the Coalition's claim that the money was not there, pointing out that the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education had written to Shadow Education Secretary Ed Balls stating that the BSF programme was properly funded during his tenure as Secretary of State for Children, Schools & Families.


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Derek with Head Teacher Mrs Carol Owen on a recent visit to The Bankfield School

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